Fireside Project, a 24/7 peer supported psychedelic hotline, is expected to launch in April 2021. Reports San Francisco News
The nonprofit is dedicated specifically to helping people navigate psychedelic experiences. It will offer free confidential services by phone, text message, and live chat to help individuals with a range of topics, from supporting someone who has taken a psychedelic substance to those who want to discuss a past experience.
Fireside Project works closely with the Zendo Project, an arm of the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). The Zendo Project has provided in person support to thousands of people at festivals and other events.
It will compliment those services provided by the Zendo Project to allow more people to have access to support for their experiences.
The nonprofit was founded by Joshua White in October 2020. White, a Deputy City Attorney at the San Francisco City’s Attorney Office, said in a post on Medium that years ago he considered leaving his career as a lawyer to become a psychedelic therapist. While volunteering at a San Francisco-based local hotline, he was blown away by how deeply healing it can be for people to have someone call them every week and just listen.
White described feeling depressed during the start of the pandemic. He called the crisis hotline and asked himself ‘What gives me hope for the world?’
White reported that the answer came to him immediately: the psychedelic movement.
“My hope is that Fireside Project will be a gift to anyone having a psychedelic experience who needs connection and support,” said White.
According to the Associated Press, studies have shown positive results when using psychedelic substances to help treat mental health conditions. Magic mushrooms have been used in religious or spiritual practices in some cultures for centuries. The mushrooms contain psilocybin, which is responsible for the psychedelic effect.
On November 3, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin for mental health treatment. California State Senator Scott Weiner recently introduced a bill aimed at decriminalizing psychedelics. Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Denver have all effectively decriminalized the possession of psychedelic mushrooms.
“The war on drugs has been a disaster, in terms of bloating low enforcement, tearing apart communities, criminalizing addiction and spending enormous amounts of money on prison,” Wiener said. “We need to end the war on drugs. Possession of drugs should just not be a crime.”
Full Press Release
Announcing the Launch of Fireside Project
Founders of the World’s First Peer Support Line for Psychedelics
Imagine you decided to have your first psychedelic experience safely at home. Maybe you decided to try it because you’d been hearing about the resurgence of research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, or had heard that they might be helpful for spiritual growth or cognitive enhancement. Maybe the CEO of your tech company just got back from Peru and talked about how ayahuasca helped him find enlightenment. Or maybe you were just curious. Whatever the reason, here you are, alone in your apartment. Your “trip”’ started off pleasantly enough, but now, it’s taken a darker turn. You feel your panic level rising. You’d call somebody, but you’re not sure anyone you know would understand.
* * * * *
We created Fireside Project for situations just like this. We want to create a world where no one ever has to be alone with a psychedelic experience.
That’s why we’re excited to announce that in April 2021, Fireside Project will launch the Psychedelic Peer Support Line — the first ever peer support line dedicated specifically to helping people navigate psychedelic experiences. With free, confidential service by phone, text message, and live chat, we’ll offer support for people who have taken a psychedelic substance, who are helping a friend who has done so, or who want to discuss past psychedelic experiences.
In addition to responding to incoming calls and messages, our volunteers — each of whom will complete a 36-hour training in addition to being carefully selected for relevant skills — will offer clients a weekly follow-up phone call or text message. This will allow Fireside Project to provide our clients with long-term support as they continue to explore the meaning of their psychedelic experiences and integrate them into their lives.
There is an urgent need for the services Fireside Project will provide. Psychedelics are on the brink of catalyzing a revolution in mental health care. In studies at top universities across the world, psychedelics have shown promise treating conditions such as depression, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, and many others. Simultaneously, some jurisdictions, including the state of Oregon and the cities of Ann Arbor, Denver, and Oakland, have decriminalized the use of psychedelics, with more likely to follow suit. Psychedelic use in clinical, ceremonial, and recreational settings has steadily risen.
The pandemic has likely accelerated that trend. One expert estimates that LSD use has tripled during the quarantine, as the virus has propelled the world into a mental health crisis. According to one report, more than a third of adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic, ten percent have contemplated suicide, and 13 percent report new or increased substance use as a way to manage stress. Not surprisingly, calls to emotional support lines have skyrocketed. According to the Washington Post, calls to one nationwide hotline run by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have gone up more than 1,000 percent during the pandemic.
Against this backdrop, people are turning to psychedelics, often for the first time, without adequate preparation, without knowing the risks, and without a support system in place. Using psychedelics in this way is like rolling the dice, and can carry significant psychological risks. It can also mean missing out on a significant opportunity for mental, physical, and spiritual growth. By supporting people through their psychedelic experiences, we’ll help people reduce the risks and fulfill the potential of their psychedelic experiences.
We already know of the fast-growing need for psychedelic peer support, thanks to the success of the Zendo Project, an arm of the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Since 2012, the Zendo Project has provided in-person peer support to thousands of people at festivals and other events. Recently the Zendo Project has started offering support by video at events such as Burning Man 2020, which occurred online due to the pandemic. Fireside Project’s services will complement those provided by the Zendo Project and others, and allow even more people to receive the support they need for their psychedelic experiences.
“Volunteering for the Zendo Project was part of my inspiration for starting Fireside Project,” said Joshua White, the Founder and Director of Fireside Project, and a practicing attorney who spent 11 years as a Deputy City Attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and clinical instructor at Yale Law School helping students develop and litigate public interest lawsuits.
White may not seem like the traditional founder of a psychedelic organization. “Many years ago I was considering leaving my career as a lawyer to become a psychedelic therapist,” White explained, “So I started volunteering at a San Francisco-based crisis hotline called the TALK Line. I was blown away by how deeply healing it can be for people to have someone call them every week and just listen. I remember one client told me, ‘I don’t know whether I’ve been a gift or whether it’s been there all along, but I feel like I’ve unwrapped it.’ That was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.”
“When the pandemic started, I noticed myself slipping into depression. Calls to the TALK Line had become even more intense. I asked myself, ‘What gives me hope for the world?’ The answer came to me in a heartbeat: the psychedelic movement. Not long after that, I decided I wanted to create a support line for psychedelics. My hope is that Fireside Project will be a gift to anyone having a psychedelic experience who needs connection and support.”
Fireside Project is honored to be guided by some of the brightest lights in the psychedelic movement and helpline community. Our Advisory Board includes, in addition to current and former managers of local helplines, psychiatrist and author Dr. Julie Holland; psychedelic communications expert Brad Burge; Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF Dr. Joseph Zamaria; co-founder of the Yale Psychedelic Science Group Dr. Jordan Sloshower; Director of Harm Reduction for the MAPS’ Zendo Project Dr. Katrina Michelle; co-founder of Women’s Visionary Council Annie Oak; and Associate Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies Dr. Nick Walker, among ten others.
To celebrate our launch, Fireside Project is hosting a free virtual panel on November 17 at noon PST, entitled “Answering the Call: Introducing the World’s First Peer Support Line for Psychedelics.” The panel will feature MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., as well as Fireside Project Advisory Board members Dr. Julie Holland and Brad Burge. Also on the panel will be Fireside Project’s Founder and Director, Joshua White, and Cultivator of Beloved Community, Hanifa Nayo Washington.
About Fireside Project
Founded in San Francisco in October 2020, Fireside Project’s mission is to help people reduce the risks and fulfill the potential of their psychedelic experiences by providing compassionate, accessible, and culturally responsive peer support, educating the public, and furthering psychedelic research, while embracing practices that increase equity, power sharing, and belonging within the psychedelic movement.
Between now and when the Psychedelic Peer Support Line goes live in mid-April, Fireside Project will spread the word about our mission, ask for donations to support our work, host a series of public panels, and recruit and train volunteers.
For more information about Fireside Project, please visit us at firesideproject.org. You can also find us on Instagram at firesideproject, Facebook at @thefiresideproject; Twitter at @GlowFireside; and Linkedin.
For questions and media inquiries, please email [email protected]